Presentation to Iowa General Assembly Joint Education Appropriations Subcommittee

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feb. 9, 2011
Room 22
Iowa State Capitol
Gloria Gibson, executive vice president and provost; and interim president, University of Northern Iowa

I.   Introduction

Thank you for the opportunity today to speak to you on behalf of the University of Northern Iowa.  I am serving as interim president while President Allen recuperates from surgery. I want to focus my remarks today on our goal of providing quality academic programs and outreach services that impact the state and contribute to its long-term viability.

II.  UNI serves Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa is committed to providing an excellent educational experience for our students. Our mission as articulated in our recently approved strategic plan states: UNI provides transformative learning experiences that inspire students to embrace challenge, engage in critical inquiry and creative thought, and contribute to society. As such, we prepare Iowans to lead and work in Iowa, teachers to teach in Iowa, and help communities and small businesses to develop and flourish in Iowa. While our graduates live and work all around the world, we're very proud of the impact we have on our state. A few examples are:

  • 25 percent are first-generation students, from Iowa

  • 91 percent of our 13,201 students are from Iowa

  • On average, 80 percent of our graduates each year take their first job, or go to graduate school, in Iowa

  • We graduate 500 new teachers each year

  • More than 60,000 of our alumni live and work in Iowa

  • More than 12,000 of our alumni teach in Iowa

  • 23 percent of Iowa's teachers, and 33 percent of Iowa's school administrators, hold degrees from UNI

  • And our Business and Community Services programs provide support to businesses, entrepreneurs and communities in all 99 Iowa counties.

Our vision is to be nationally known for innovative education, preparing students for success in a rapidly changing, globally competitive, and culturally diverse world. We need your support to transform our vision into reality where it will have a direct impact on current and future generations of Iowans. As we move forward, there are four important statewide collaborations that deserve special mention:

First, UNI provides leadership for the Iowa Math and Science Education Partnership (IMSEP), which is a collaboration with the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. The goals of the program are to improve the performance of Iowa youth in the disciplines of math and science; and to improve the quality and production of Iowa science and math teachers.  Since the program's inception in 2007, according to the annual report, we've seen:

  • A 22-percent increase in science-teaching majors

  • A 63-percent increase in math-teaching majors

  • An increased interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics among high-school students in 89 Iowa counties and more than 300 Iowa communities.

Second, UNI and the Iowa Department of Education are leading the implementation of the statewide research and development school. The R&D School will benefit all Iowa pre-K through 12 students, and will enhance the preparation and professional competence of Iowa teachers. We're in the second year of the three-year transition and are on track for full implementation by fall 2012. 

Third, UNI has completed articulation and admissions-partnership agreements with all 15 of Iowa's community colleges. This allows students who start at a community college to seamlessly transition to UNI to continue their academic pursuits.  We're also implementing a Foundations of Excellence special-focus on transfer students to better understand and meet their needs. 

Finally, UNI's Business and Community Services programs provide hands-on assistance for Iowa businesses and communities. Each dollar of state funding that goes to BCS programs leverages $6 in federal or private support.  In 2009, BCS programs:

  • Served more than 10,000 small business and entrepreneurs in all 99 Iowa counties, creating approximately 1,500 jobs.  

  • Helped start or expand more than 150 ventures.

Last year, more than 200 UNI faculty and 2,000 students assisted in delivery of business outreach services.  One of our students' businesses was a finalist in Entrepreneur Magazine's collegiate entrepreneur of the year competition.

These are but a few of many examples I could give.  While our faculty, staff and students make tremendous contributions to the state, we seek to become even better stewards of our funding by continuously striving to be more efficient and cost effective.  However, the effects of budget cuts on UNI have been profound.

III.   Effects of budget cuts on UNI

As you know, our two primary funding sources are state appropriations and tuition.  A key point of discussion at last week's Board of Regents meeting was the tuition increase for next year. The Board Office is recommending a 5-percent increase in resident and non-resident tuition for UNI and will vote on the recommendation next month.  Please know we remain sensitive to the impact of tuition increases on our students and their families and committed to protecting student financial aid.  

The recent history of our state appropriations, however, is most serious. Since 2008, UNI has seen no fewer than eight state budget reductions totaling $23 million, or 22.3 percent. In real dollars, state appropriations for UNI are now at the same level as fiscal year 1997-98, and in constant dollars, the university is funded at the same level as fiscal year 1987. Going into fiscal year 2012, the governor's budget proposes a 6-percent budget reduction, in addition to the loss of $1.4 million in one-time funding for last year, yielding a reduction of more than 7 percent.

With such a large percentage of our students coming from Iowa, any cut in state appropriations is amplified at UNI because of the composition of our student body. We depend more on state appropriations than our sister Regents institutions, which benefit from a much larger percentage of non-resident student tuition to supplement their budgets.

Therefore, even with a tuition increase and a modestly predicted enrollment increase, when we add new unavoidable expenses, we anticipate starting the year with a multi-million-dollar deficit.

IV.   Efficiencies and cost savings

As state funding has decreased we've continued to find ways to make the university more efficient and effective. Last year was especially challenging, but our actions illustrate our commitment to reallocate resources and tighten our belts. The following examples illustrate our commitment:

  • We combined two of our five colleges, eliminating a dean's position and merged the Graduate College administration under the provost's office thereby eliminating another administrative position.

  • We reviewed our academic programs and identified underused programs and majors. They were suspended, restructured or eliminated.  At a recent Academic Affairs Council meeting, we discussed additional scrutiny of programs.

  • We eliminated one of four administrative divisions and with it a vice president's position.

  • We pursued an aggressive program of sustainability initiatives to reduce energy-related expenses. Those include retrofitting campus facilities as well as incorporating energy-saving concepts into the design of new facilities. For example, our Multi-modal Transportation Center is the first net-zero energy-use building of its kind in the state.

  • We instituted an early retirement program where 117 people left university employment for a net savings of $3.9 million. Of the 117 positions, we've refilled only 42, in critical areas.

  • We reduced our contribution to retirement-programs, which provided a cost savings of $1 million.

  • And with the support of many of our employees, we instituted furloughs, which generated salary, wage and benefit savings of $1.5 million.

In addition, we've also delayed building repairs and much-needed maintenance.  UNI has aggressively addressed the need to work more efficiently and effectively, while still meeting the need to prepare Iowans to lead and work in Iowa, to prepare teachers to teach in Iowa, and to help communities and small businesses develop and grow in Iowa.

With four straight years of enrollment growth, and a significant increase in applications for next fall, Iowans clearly appreciate an educational experience from UNI. However, we're seriously concerned that we won't be able to meet the needs and demands of a growing student body and the state in the face of continuing budget cuts. It's distressing each time we respond to cuts and it becomes harder to protect the programs and services that represent the core values of excellence at UNI. Moreover, budget reductions will impact the entire university, not solely the academic arm. Specifically, potential outcomes of proposed cuts include:

  • Increased class sizes, fewer course offerings and a lengthening of the time to graduation.

  • Increased difficulty in recruitment and retention of the quality of faculty that have made UNI one of the top undergraduate institutions in the Midwest.

  • Increased reliance on adjunct faculty -- counter to UNI's emphasis on full-time faculty teaching courses.

  • Potential closing of viable academic programs.

  • Increased scrutiny of auxiliary enterprises such as intercollegiate athletics, the Student Health Center, the Wellness Recreation Center, the Maucker Union and the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center for possible reductions.

  • Inability to provide student access to cutting-edge equipment and technology necessary for today's workforce.

  • Diminished student opportunities where outreach components integrate with curricula to enrich students' education.

Finally, for UNI, the loss of federal appropriations, which many times are leveraged against other external funding sources and concerns about reduced federal student-aid represent a troubling canvas for our university.  

V.   Close

In closing, I'd like to reiterate we are firmly committed to maintaining our academic quality, but the potential cuts threaten to encroach upon principles and priorities we have vowed to protect for our students and the future of our state.  I will end with a story that illustrates how UNI provides transformative learning experiences that inspire students to embrace challenge and contribute to society.

This is a story about UNI graduate Reygan Freeny, an African-American from a low-income, single-parent household on the east side of Waterloo. She recently described her first days at UNI as a shy, uncertain first-generation college student.

As she put it, her General Chemistry instructor was "Like a ball of energy and absolutely engaging, so much so that I became mesmerized by the subject of chemistry."  

Her instructor saw her potential and encouraged her to major in chemistry. She did. In her junior year, he asked her if she knew how many African-American women in the United States earned a Ph.D. in chemistry each year. The answer was five.

He encouraged her to add her name to that list and she did, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. She's teaching this year at UNI in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. As Reygan says, "I am a success story." Her story is just one example of the impact UNI has on the lives of Iowans and the commitment Iowans feel to "give back."

The University of Northern Iowa has a long tradition of documented success in preparing Iowans to lead and work in Iowa, in educating teachers to teach in Iowa, and in helping communities and small businesses develop and grow in Iowa.

UNI has been through two-and-a-half years of rapid and intense budget cuts. Even during these tough economic times our enrollment continues to increase. Our commitment to excellence in undergraduate education has made UNI one of the best public comprehensive universities in the Midwest. Today we ask for your support as we seek to continue to meet the needs of the state of Iowa and our students. Thank you very much for this opportunity.